Role of Piel, Hiphil, etc. was Re: [b-hebrew] Why Semitic languages had no written vowels?

Karl Randolph kwrandolph at
Mon May 2 15:28:37 EDT 2005


Thanx for your comments. I think they help this discussion. I think they illustrate exactly what I meant.

But they also bring up other questions.   :-)

Vadim claimed that Piel is merely an intensive Qal. I’ve heard that claim before from others. If that is true, how do you tell from context when 
to use Qal and when to use Piel? What context indicates intensity? If the context indicates it, why have the form? Is it possible that the Piel is 
an alternate form of the Qal used for certain verbs, in the same manner as the “a” and “e” conjugations of Latin and Spanish verbs (I hope I 
remembered these correctly)?

Your examples below, however, point to a different use of the Piel, namely that Piel has a causitive meaning. But if so, what is the difference 
between Piel and Hiphil? Are they just two different conjugations? Or is the difference that they point to different actors and objects acted 

If you say that Hiphil is reflexive, that’s hithpael territory. Grrrr!!!     ;-)

What goes for the Piel also goes for the Pual.

In short, my questions above show that after a few times reading Tanakh through cover to cover, I am dissatisfied with the grammatical 
reasons I was told back in beginning Biblical Hebrew class.

Thanx again.

Karl W. Randolph.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Yigal Levin" <leviny1 at>
> Dear all,
> While I have been hesitant about getting into this one and while I have no
> fully-formulated opinion of my own, Karl's statement below is not
> necessarily true. As a native speaker of modern Hebrew, I find it quite
> natural to use the piel in certain contexts and the qal in others, without
> having to think of the rules first. Most roots use either one or the other.
> I would never say "davar" for "he said" - only "dibber". "Lamad" means "he
> learned"; "limmed" is "he taught". No ambiguity about it. Yes, there are
> words that can have several related meanings, just like in any language, but
> the native speaker learns to tell the difference. A language is first
> spoken, only later written, and this was as true in the Iron Age as it is
> now.
> Yigal
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